'One of the funniest people I've ever known': Lorne Michaels honors late 'SNL' star Norm Macdonald at Emmys

News of Norm Macdonald’s death shattered Hollywood just days before the Primetime Emmy Awards. And as the awards show unspooled on Sunday, the comedian’s peers took time to honor Macdonald, who died Tuesday at age 61 after a private nine-year bout with cancer.

Appropriately enough, the biggest eulogy came from Lorne Michaels, who gave Macdonald his breakout gig, hiring the Quebec-born comedian as a writer and cast member on Saturday Night Live in 1993.

“I would like to pay tribute to one of the best we ever had, Norm Macdonald,” Michaels said, as he accepted SNL’s award for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series.

The Saturday Night Live chief and Toronto native continued to praise Macdonald during a backstage interview.

“He meant the world to people there,” Michaels said of Macdonald, who spent five seasons on the show, including three-and-a-half as anchor of “Weekend Update.” “I can tell you from just the number of people I’ve heard from, the number of people [I’ve talked to]. … When you work with somebody for that many years and they make you laugh and you’re aware of who they are as a person and as a friend.

“I think Norm was one of the funniest people I’ve ever known and, because he’s Canadian, I’d put him right up there in the top five.”

Norm Macdonald, Cheri Oteri, Lorne Michaels and Molly Shannon during a “Weekend Update” skit on SNL on Oct. 21, 1995.
Norm Macdonald, Cheri Oteri, Lorne Michaels and Molly Shannon during a “Weekend Update” skit on SNL on Oct. 21, 1995. (Photo: Al Levine/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

Michaels later reflected on Macdonald’s trademark deadpan delivery, which was showcased on SNL, countless late-night talk-show appearances and in films like Billy Madison and Dirty Work.

“I was always just in awe of how long he could take to tell a joke, and how long he could pause before he told another joke,” Michaels said. “And he never pandered. Do you know what I mean? He was always going to do it the way he wanted to do it, and if you waited, you were really happy you did.

“He had integrity.”

John Oliver, whose Last Week Tonight With John Oliver won Best Variety Talk Series, also saluted Macdonald while accepting his Emmy on Sunday.

“No one was funnier in the last 20 years than Norm Macdonald on late-night comedy,” Oliver said. “If you have any time in the next week, do what I did and just spend time YouTube-ing clips of Norm and Conan [O’Brien]. ... It doesn’t get better than that.”

Watch Norm Macdonald tell his legendary “Moth Joke” to Conan O'Brien: